What’s cued speech?

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Cued speech transforms spoken words into visible cues using hand-formed symbols, helping deaf people distinguish between similar sounds. It has also been used to communicate with those with developmental disabilities and can help with language learning and development.

Cued speech is a form of communication that transforms the spoken word into a visible and easily understood form. Although it was first used in conjunction with English, it is now familiar to people in a number of different countries and has been adapted to a number of languages. The use of guided speech is often in conjunction with other types of communication and helps distinguish between similar sounds.

Using eight different hand-formed symbols, this form of speech is often used in addition to speech reading or lip reading. Hand signals are placed in different areas around the throat and mouth, and each combination indicates a vowel or other sound. This transforms audible sounds into visible cues that can be used to clarify what is being said. For someone who is deaf and relies on lip reading, this can help clarify between words and sounds that sound similar when spoken.

While primarily used by deaf people, cued speech has also been used in communicating with individuals who have developmental disabilities, especially autism and Down syndrome. Research has shown that the tendency of combining physical and audible speech is to closely focus the listener’s and speaker’s attention on the mouth, words, and sound formation; this can be helpful when teaching some children. Techniques can be especially helpful when paired with other activities, such as music.

Cued speech can also be helpful for those who have difficulty processing audible information. When learning a new language, an individual can learn the patterns inherent in that language with the help of guided speech, just as if they were learning a native language for the first time. For people who experience gradual hearing loss that begins after mastering their first language, guided speech can help strengthen language skills and help keep their speech from deteriorating over time.

In addition to giving the spoken word a visual component and making it easier to understand, prompted speech can also help deaf children develop better reading and writing skills. The grammar and method of a language become clearer; guided speech also helps deaf people understand exactly how thoughts and sentences are communicated, as opposed to just understanding the meaning. Knowing how language is put together is a vital part of being able to communicate meaning, and guided speech can help the deaf or hard of hearing develop that ability as quickly as a hearing child.

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